Facet Joint Pain

Facet Joint PainFacet joints are the structures that connect vertebrae to one another. Just like other joints in the body, facet joints use cartilage to line the joint, and a capsule to surround it. Normally, the facet provides support, flexibility, and mobility to the entire vertebrae, or spinal cord. Two facets conjoin in between each vertebrae. The following are names associated with facets, all having relatively the same symptoms and definitions.

  • Facet Arthritis
  • Facet Joint Syndrome
  • Facet Disease
  • Facet Hypertrophy
  • Degenerative Facet Joints


The development of arthritis in the facets is usually caused by overwork, degeneration of the spine, or an accident. Other times, facet disease can be caused by spondylolthesis, or a slipped vertebrae, often in the lumbar spine.

Risk Factors

According to the NYU medical research team, the primary causes of facet disease stem from aging and senescence. The aging process and risk are closely tied to heredity, gender, diet, obesity, age, and physical maturity. However, facet disease is also caused by:

Trauma; in this case a physical injury, osteonecrosis or temporary or permanent loss of the blood supply to an area of bone, inflammatory arthritis, and dysplasias meaning an abnormal development (of organs or cells) or an abnormal structure resulting from such growth


Facet joint pain is usually located in the cervical (neck), thoracic (mid-back), and/or lumbar (lower back) regions of the body.  SpineHealth.com describes possible signs of severe facet pain to be:

  • Acute episodes of lumbar and cervical facet joint pain are typically intermittent, generally unpredictable, and occur a few times per month or per year.
  • Most patients will have a persisting point tenderness overlying the inflamed facet joints and some degree of loss in the spinal muscle flexibility (called guarding).
  • Typically, there will be more discomfort while leaning backward than while leaning forward.


Often a doctor can spot patterns of arthritis in the spin through a CT scan or an MRI. A bone scan can show the areas of active inflammation in the spine for an accurate diagnosis.


Because there are so many causes of back and neck pain, it is important to make the right diagnosis before beginning treatment. First, treatment requires a diagnostic facet injection do determine if facet joint disease is the clear cause. If the previous pain subsides, then facet joint disease is the cause. After the injection, the next step is called a “Laser Facet Thermal Ablation.” NYU Medicine describes the procedure as:

performed through a small tube – 5mm (about the size of a straw.) The laser, fiber optics and irrigation are all placed in the tube and surgery is performed on the facet joint. The surgeon will use the laser to debride (clean the joint) and deaden the nerve that innervates the joint.

It is a similar procedure to a dentist performing a root canal. It takes roughly 40 minutes and should further relieve the pain in the facet joint. Further physical therapy could be necessary. If you or someone you know is suffering from severe facet pain due to someone else’s negligence, compensation may be available. With steep medical bills for physical therapy, medications, and even surgery, it can be financially devastating. On top of the financial woes, grave pain and suffering, and loss of wages can accompany such circumstances. The lawyers at Christensen & Hymas make it their goal to ease the burden of such an injury by helping you receive the compensation you deserve. If you have questions or would like to schedule a free initial consultation, call us at 801-506-0800. To learn more about facet joint injections, click here.

Image “Blausen 0391 Facet Injection” copyright by BruceBlaus.

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